If you were downtown in the days before or during the recent NBA All-Star Game, you probably saw the giant mural on the side of Benson Tower. It was a portrait of Pelicans star Anthony Davis with one word: EQUALITY.
This time last year, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina was preparing to host the 2017 All-Star Game, with all its attendant fanfare, publicity and tourism dollars. Then, in a one-day special session last March, North Carolina lawmakers passed HB2, the so-called "bathroom bill," which prohibited municipal anti-discrimination laws. North Carolina had no specific protections for LGBT citizens, but Charlotte and several other cities had passed their own nondiscrimination protections. With the stroke of a pen, then-Gov. Pat McCrory undid those ordinances. (McCrory subsequently was defeated in a close race , due largely to negative reaction to HB2.)
The NBA's response sent a clear message. After failing to convince North Carolina to repeal the bill, the league pulled its All-Star Game in July, citing opposition to HB2. New Orleans and Louisiana tourism leaders pounced. In August, the league announced it was moving the game to New Orleans, which had adopted its own nondiscrimination ordin- ances in the 1990s. Louisiana also bars hiring practices that discriminate against gays and lesbians, dating from an executive order signed by then-Gov. Edwin Edwards in 1992. Subsequent Republican governors (Mike Foster, Bobby Jindal) let that order lapse, but Gov. John Bel Edwards reissued it last year, adding the term "gender identity" in recognition of transgender people.
Local leaders know diversity is good for business, particularly when it comes to welcoming all. In a wrap-up of the All-Star weekend, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said "diversity" and "inclusion" were key to attracting the event and making it a success.
But there's more to "diversity" than passing laws. Over the years, diversity made New Orleans a food capital and the birthplace of America's one true art form — jazz — along with Dixieland, bounce and other indigenous music. Diversity drives our thriving hospitality industry because we're happy to see people from all over the world — and we want to show them a good time.
Right now, Texas is weighing its own version of HB2. Senate Bill 6 in the Lone Star State, championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would accomplish many of the same goals as North Carolina's HB2. Texas state Sen. Bob Hall has Senate Bill 92, which would undo individual cities' protections for LGBT citizens and block future protections, wiping out nondiscrimination laws in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and other big cities in Texas.
The NBA and NFL have warned Texas against such pernicious bills. "The NFL embraces inclusiveness," a spokesman told the Houston Chronicle. "NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard."
We hope Texas lawmakers do the right thing and scuttle these bills. If they don't, we have a message for the NBA, the NFL and any other group or business that values diversity: Everyone's welcome in New Orleans.